On this day… 4th December, 1795 – Thomas Carlyle born
Thomas Carlyle (4 December 1795 – 5 February 1881) was a Scottish philosopher, satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher. Considered one of the most important social commentators of his time, he presented many lectures during his lifetime with certain acclaim in the Victorian era. One of those conferences resulted in his famous work On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and The Heroic in History where he explains that the key role in history lies in the actions of the “Great Man”, claiming that “History is nothing but the biography of the Great Man”.
By 1821, Carlyle abandoned the clergy as a career and focused on making a life as a writer. His first fiction was “Cruthers and Jonson”, one of several abortive attempts at writing a novel.
A respected historian in his day, his 1837 book The French Revolution: A History was the inspiration for Dickens’ 1859 novel A Tale of Two Cities, and remains popular today. Carlyle’s 1836 novel Sartor Resartus is considered one of the finest works of the nineteenth century.
Did You Know?
Carlyle was the chief instigator in the foundation of the London Library in 1841.
He had become frustrated by the facilities available at the British Museum Library, where he was often unable to find a seat (obliging him to perch on ladders), where he complained that the enforced close confinement with his fellow readers gave him a “museum headache”, where the books were unavailable for loan, and where he found the library’s collections of pamphlets and other material relating to the French Revolution and English Civil Wars inadequately catalogued. Carlyle’s eventual solution, with the support of a number of influential friends, was to call for the establishment of a private subscription library from which books could be borrowed.